8 Months Later….

Wow, that was a long hiatus.

Exactly 8 months later, and we are mere days from the baby’s due date — March 31, 2013.

It’s been a surreal ride. At first, I struggled with some survivor’s guilt and stopped blogging because I know how painful the road has been for some and know that although we all have the capacity to be happy for others, it does not mean our hearts don’t get squeezed like a vice when we hear that yet another has somehow gotten pregnant, against all odds. At the same time, I was struggling with my own disbelief (as my last post conveys). I don’t think it was until my 5th month that I finally told work that I was pregnant. It must have been after our 5-month ultrasound when we were able to receive some confirmation that the baby was genetically healthy. I don’t even think I told my own parents we were pregnant until after our first trimester. And though I’m a regular user of facebook, I did not make any announcement of our pregnancy, and to this day, we have not done so. I have balked at and been pained by too many images of pregnancy sticks, ultrasound images, and baby bump photos to put others through it. Our pregnancy has felt like a private affair that we celebrate at different milestones with our close community and that has felt congruent for us in many ways.

For a long while, I refused to think about things we needed to do or buy to get ready for the little one. My partner was soon looking into cribs and gliders and I did the adult version of sticking my fingers in my ears while obnoxiously drowning him out, going “lalalalalalalalalala!!” In fact, I might have actually done that as we walked through Ikea one day and he wanted to show me some cribs. I think things began to finally feel real at about … the 6th month mark? Nevertheless, I referred to my kiddo as “kiddo” until perhaps the last 8 weeks or so when I’ve finally been able to say, “baby.”

Overall, pregnancy has treated me extraordinarily well. I did not struggle with any fatigue through the last 9 months, I didn’t struggle with any morning sickness, and my mood has also remained quite stable through it all. In the last trimester, I’ve been, of course, feeling more uncomfortable in my body, getting some heartburn, and having trouble sleeping due to the discomfort and having to pee more often at night. The worst might be the swelling that’s been happening in my legs, hands, and feet but all in all, I’ve been doing well and I feel so very grateful. Of course, these last few weeks have been extraordinarily uncomfortable as I’ve gotten bigger and bigger and bigger.

Another beautiful thing happened in the midst of all this magic. My 41-year-old best friend who has also been struggling with infertility (i.e., multiple miscarriages) for the past two years, told me shortly after I confirmed my pregnancy that she was also pregnant and was two weeks ahead of me. We were able to feel happy for each other, but detached for ourselves for quite some time. Things have felt surreal for us both but two weeks ago, she gave birth to a beautiful little baby girl. I saw my friend for a bit during her labor process and also soon after her baby girl was born and it really brought home to me just how real this really is. There really is a baby at the end of all this. Our birthing classes and all those books we have been reading is not just one big intellectual exercise!

And so as I sit on my glider in our nursery, breathing through yet another set of braxton hicks contractions, I can truly say that I am ready, in heart, mind, and (hopefully!) body, to bring tenacious little eggly wiggly – our baby – into this world.

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Unchartered Territory

Life works in mysterious ways.

C and I were at our couples therapy appointment on Monday and decided that we would move forward with doing IVF using a donated anonymous egg and that we would ask his family for some financial assistance for the $25K+ bill. It was a big step after all the disappointment and grieving we’ve been struggling with. Through my tears of more sadness and grief, I laughed (bitterly) when I said we were continuing to try naturally and that to this day, I still hope on the days that I’m supposed to get my period (like that particularly day), that somehow, we would have a miracle baby and would be pregnant.

On Tuesday, I came home and was about to pour myself a healthy glass of wine but since I had not gotten my period yet, I decided to pee on a stick, given that I was two days past my expected menstrual day. This might have been the third time that I’ve taken a pregnancy test since we’ve been trying, SIXTEEN cycles ago. To actually take a pregnancy test is a strong admission of hope and well, I’ve come to really hate hope. So, there I was, peeing on a stick. Two pink lines emerged 5 minutes later, but one was lighter. I was confused. I brought it to C and asked him what that means and showed him the instruction sheet (which clearly said if there are two pink lines and one is lighter, it is a positive test). I didn’t believe it and promptly threw the test into the garbage. I was about to pour myself that glass of wine and then decided we should probably use a digital pregnancy test just to be sure. In the meantime, I was refusing to let myself think about the possibilities. In fact, I was chanting to myself  “don’t think about it, don’t think about it”  the whole way to the drug store so that when we got to the drug store, I actually forgot why we were there!

Home we go, and soon after, the digital pregnancy test said “pregnant.” Neither of us believed it. I couldn’t think about it. I texted two of my best friends to let them know what happened and that I’m trying not to think about it. One asked to call me and I couldn’t talk about it. C and I sat down to dinner and watched True Blood (appetizing combo, I know). I pushed the possibility out of my mind for the rest of the night but alas, once I fall asleep, my unconscious took over and refused to be calmed or quieted. Possibilities were swirling around.

I called the fertility clinic the next morning (Wednesday morning) but knew I would not be able to get a blood test until Thursday (yesterday) as my work day was packed. In the meantime, I did not want to hear anyone’s excitement and I wrote to my girlfriend who asked me how I was feeling, “I am simultaneously HOPEFUL for this to be true; ANGRY that finding out that I may be pregnant brings with it so many mixed feelings; SCARED shitless that this isn’t true and I’m going to get my period anytime or that if it is true I’ll lose it; and anticipatory DREAD, DISAPPOINTMENT, GRIEF, ANGER as I play out the scenario of me getting my period in the next day or two or even next week and what that would be like.”

The fertility clinic called me a few hours after my blood draw and my HCG level was at 889 — definitely pregnant. WHAT?

She wanted me to go in for a second blood draw on Sunday and to book my 6 week ultra sound (August 10). WHAT??

I hesitated to book the ultrasound and wanted to wait until Sunday’s blood draw to make sure everything was still okay. I am so scared and need to take this one step at a time; I can’t get ahead of myself, and I cringe at others’ excitement (e.g., the fertility clinic nurses). My reactions have been all over the map since and my reactions to those reactions are similarly mixed. A friend of mine who has been struggling with infertility herself sent me two articles that were validating of my experience and feelings since finding out that we are pregnant:

http://www.shadygrovefertility.com/pregnancy_after_infertility

www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book/companion.asp?id=21&compID=128

I am now just trying to take it a day at a time, a breath at time. Trying to resume a healthy regime. I had stopped taking my prenatals, got really inconsistent with my thyroid medication, starting eating any and all cheeses at all times of the month,  drank alcohol whenever I wanted,  had coffee every morning, stopped going to the acupuncturist. I also have detected more pregnancy symptoms in months when I’ve not been pregnant than this month. This is all not to say that I’ve been relaxed so fear not — I’m not going to shove the “oh, maybe if you just relax about everything, you’ll get pregnant” bullshit down anyone’s throat. I’ve actually been in a “fuck it” mode and coming off the heels of the significant relationship rupture that occurred between me and my sister last month after she said no to donating her eggs. I’ve let things go because I was so overwhelmed reacted to my stress and anger by rebelling against the things I was doing for fertility reasons.

And in the midst of all that, one little stubborn egg finally decided let itself be penetrated. Life works in mysterious ways, I tell you.

Loss, loss, and more loss.

Yowzers, it’s been a long time. As I noted nearly two months ago, I’ve been coping by avoiding and now, there’s even more to avoid.

After some serious exploration (diagnostic tests, therapy, multiple doctors’ visits), my sister, who has a healthy reserve of eggs and would have been my last chance at having children containing my genetic material, told me no. For fear of the impact on our relationship in the future, and because she doesn’t yet have children of her own, she does not want to donate her eggs. That was nearly a month ago and in that month, I have been going through cycles of intense emotions. First, sadness and grief at the prospect of my genes being a part of this process. And something I had not expected when I first asked her, was then anger and disappointment that she said no. And with that deep disappointment, I feel a sense of loss for something in our relationship that feels like it was permanently lost when she denied us this last shred of hope.

In order for me to feel comfortable with accepting her eggs, I had to do some emotional shifting myself. I had to really reconceptualize her eggs as not really her eggs, but that she is carrying the genes that our parents gave us. The millions of eggs that she was given do not differ much from the millions of eggs I was given. In fact, in consultation with a geneticist (though it’s also common sense), it is quite random who gets what and our eggs would have up to ~88% of the same genetic material. It wasn’t until I emotionally shifted to a place where I saw each of us as only carriers of our ancestors’ genes that I was able to imagine myself accepting my sister’s eggs without a feeling of debt and be potentially trapped in a web of sacrifice, indebtedness, guilt, and so forth. And once I shifted emotionally, I felt liberated and excited. But ultimately she was unable to make that emotional shift and could only see her eggs as her future children. I’m not disappointed that she said no if she couldn’t make that shift because I surely do not want to have children that she thinks is hers. I am just so disappointed that she couldn’t shift her perspective — disappointed and disappointed in her.

The pain I feel from the rupture in my relationship with my sister is as painful as this infertility debacle.  All my life, she has been my rock and saving grace. We have one of the closest sister relationships I have ever encountered….in the face of a lot of family chaos and trauma, we have been united and have leaned on and depended on each other for strength, validation, and support. And here we are. Our relationship feels like it’s in a vise right now.

In the meantime, C and I are trying our best to move forward and looking at our other options. We have ruled out the idea of donated frozen eggs and we are now contemplating whether to enter into our fertility clinic’s anonymous donated embryo program or to go with a fresh anonymous egg donor. Neither option feels good, and both are financially devastating, though the latter is more than twice as expensive as the first.

I am exhausted. I can’t remember the last time I have so consistently wanted to go home from work and just sleep, or cocoon. When I think about our situation, I can feel tears well up in my eyes, and so to maintain my composure, especially at work or driving to/from work, I distract myself with whatever is at hand. I’m getting excema (always a sign of stress for me) and I have been sick since….oh, since my sister told me no. That’s over a month ago. After the third week of coughing and hacking, I went to the doctor and he treated me with antibiotics that he’s been using to treat the whooping cough (though he did not do any diagnostic tests on me). I’m still coughing and waking up with a sore throat. My muscles ache. Things are not well in my life and my body is expressing it in all kinds of ways.

I know life can be worse. I know there’s a lot to appreciate and to be grateful about in my life. But life just feels really, really, really shitty right now and I have so little control over the outcome.

For the first time since this cruel joke started nearly a year ago, I have even been feeling resentful of other mothers, other mother-to-be, pictures of others’ kids, kids in public, kids on billboards, families with kids……it’s just not fair. Why can so many people do and accomplish such a simple thing and why is it impossible for me? Why can some of the most undeserving people have children while we – two people who would be phenomenal parents – be thwarted over and over and over again? I sometimes wish for a magic pill that could just make my desire to have children disappear. It’s interesting that I don’t wish for a magic pill that will give me a child…. perhaps that feels just too far fetched (because magic pills are not). Ah, life without the desire to have children.

Interesting Article

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I’ve been in a state of avoidance about everything, not really wanting to talk about my infertility problems with others, not following up with my sister who could be my egg donor, not blogging, closing my office door a whole lot more, leaving parties 2 hours earlier or arriving 2 hours late…. I’ve just been avoiding.

And even this post is less about everything that is going on but more to share a link to an article and study that came out of Harvard about fertility that I found quite interesting and informative, especially for those who are struggling with infertility related to ovulation difficulties. It debunks some myths and introduces some new information about diets that hinder and promote fertility. It’s particularly hard to argue with an n of 18,000!

More soon, I’m sure.

 

Resilience

Our fertility experiences have not ceased to feel surreal. We had a first this weekend. To save ourselves a trip to the fertility clinic this Saturday, our doctor gave me the option to injecting myself with the HCG hormone. I said “sure, we’ll give it a shot” (ha!) and of course, that meant, sure, I’ll see if C is willing to inject me. I hate needles and cannot (and have never) looked when getting needles. I can’t even look when vets give my furry babies their shots. So there we were on Saturday morning, alcohol wipes, syringes, medicine bottles all prepped, me lying on the bed, and C hovering above my abdomen with needle in hand. I was impressed; it was quick and simple, relatively painless. He did not hesitate or squirm. If the situation had been reversed, I would have probably pierced his skin, chickened out, and pulled the needle back out. Nope siree, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

And then on Sunday, we had our fourth round of IUI. I feel tired, I feel discouraged, I feel irritable, I already feel hopeless about this cycle. I can’t see the end to this process. I don’t know what the next steps to this journey will be, and honestly, I don’t want to know.

I’ve been through a LOT in my life. Big trauma, little traumas. Experienced them for as long as I can remember until I was old enough to create a life for myself outside my home and family structure. When I was young, I didn’t understand how difficult my circumstances were; I just survived and I didn’t know better. I also coped well by compartmentalizing my feelings and shutting them down. Everyday, I woke up assuming that things would be okay. Now, I do know better. I feel much more fully. As I head into round(s) of IVF using either my eggs or a donor’s egg next month, I actually don’t know how I’m going to cope. I have doubts about my ability to cope. This is a new fear and feeling. I always saw myself as resilient but I don’t feel strong enough to both function well in life and go through these expensive rounds of IVF. How do people do it? How do people go to work, hang out with friends, do housework, take care of their pets, go to weddings, do their taxes, and live their busy lives during their IVF months? I’m scared of being consumed by the cycle of hope, disappointment, and despair.

Already, I have a massage therapist, acupuncturist, and a couples therapist. I have a team of people helping me boost my mind, spirit, and body. Honestly, I don’t know what would give me enough resources to cope with the stress of IVF…..a whole month off work? Perhaps $150K to drop from the sky to help support multiple rounds of IVF (plus some extra for a vacation!)? Any other ideas?

Here We Go, Clo!

Today is CD1 of TTC 12. Heading into IUI Round 4.

Amazing to think that only 5 months ago, that first line would have looked like gibberish to me. One of the first signs that people are becoming a part of a new cultural group (or at least integrating parts of a culture) is the acquisition of the culture-specific language. I think I’m getting there.

As this is our last IUI round, my doctor has decided to double my dosage of Clomid to 100 mg “in hope of getting more than one follicle to grow.”  Oh, joy. This will be fun. I’ve been tolerating 50mg beautifully (i.e., with no side effects whatsoever). I wonder what it will be like on 100mg. I’ve already warned C that I should be excused from all irrationality in the next month or so. The problem with some of this stuff (including this infertility mess) is that it could be impacting me emotionally and while I think I’m fine, others are seeing something different. The changes just kind of sneak up on you (or me — I should own it).

So, let’s see what this last-ditch attempt will do.

On a side note, I have been having some occasional fantasies about what life would be like if only I did not want to be a mother. Oh, the vacations I would take. The cool house we would probably buy after we sell this one if we did not need to think about a nursery or where our young kids would sleep. The dedication and ambition I would release so that I could be as successful as can be in my occupation. I don’t even know if I would keep the job I have, which provides me loads of benefits and security, all of which I keep for the sake of my imaginary pregnancy and family. So many things would be different. Life would be easier. So much easier.

If only I did not want to be a mother.

Dirty Pain & Pain Relievers

It’s that horrid time again. The time when Flo will be arriving at any second, any time. It started yesterday with some spotting, Flo’s typical way of knocking on the door to get in (or out!). And today, slight cramping, discomfort….

Each time I get emotionally side-swiped by Flo, I get a bit surprised. This time is no different. And then as I think about the significance of this cycle, I wonder why I’m surprised that I’ve been feeling like shit. In fact, my previous blogs have predicted that this (and next cycle) would be really difficult as these are our last chances at doing this without devastating ourselves financially. Ah, the power of denial.

We have a 3 hour appointment on March 15 with the Donor Team at our fertility clinic. It will be the day where they lay out all the nitty gritty details – numbers, chances, percentages, prices, risks, benefits – of (1) IVF using our sperm/egg; (2) IVF using our sperm and a donor egg – fresh or frozen; and (3) embryo transfer (someone else’s sperm/egg. In preparing for this meeting, I revisited the option of having my sister be a donor and in doing so, had the awkward talk with her partner, a couple other follow-up conversations with her, and in the nick of time, she went into the fertility clinic on CD4 to get her FSH and ultrasound done for her Antral Follicle Count.  I’m getting a taste of what it would be like to have my sister donate her eggs and while there is much genetic advantage to this option, it’s relationally messy. The sense of indebtedness, obligation, sacrifice…..this could get messy. Well, all this to say, we have a lot to think about and mull over in the next month. I’m sure I will have a lot more to write about. For now, let’s talk about pain.

Dirty Pain

As I said, it should come as no surprise that I would be impacted by the arrival of Flo. For the past day or two, I’ve been tearful, sad, grieving, scared… with an added layer of self-blame, regret, feeling like I’m a failure, and even some Dirty Pain. As a therapist, I talk about two kinds of pain  –  Dirty Pain and Clean Pain (these aren’t my terms, they are from Acceptance Commitment Therapy). Clean Pain is the pain we feel because of the crappy things that happen in life – we lose a job, our partner cheats on us, we can’t get pregnant….you know. That kind of pain. And Dirty Pain is the crap we give ourselves for feeling bad, like feeling as though we should be stronger, or feeling like something’s wrong with us for being so sensitive, or feeling guilty for feeling so depressed or weepy. It’s unnecessary, dirty pain that we add onto what is already a difficult situation. Life is hard enough and will deliver us shit to feel pain about. The shit we give ourselves for feeling like shit is the Dirty Pain. I can’t remember the last time I felt Dirty Pain. And I actually started feeling some of it in the last 24 hours. “Why are you feeling this way? Stop being so melodramatic. Life isn’t so bad.” It wasn’t overwhelming, but it was present and it really has no place in my life.

And yet, when life feels crappy, sometimes we will look for anything to feel crappy about. It was one of those days where I was just trying to hold it together at work, just trying to get through the day. I had a half day at work today and was sooooo looking forward to coming home and just crawling into bed and crying for a few hours. I wanted it more than anything from the moment I went to bed last night.

Pain Reliever

Before coming home for my much sought after solo bawl fest, I had an acupuncture appointment. On the way there, I was crying in the car. When I sat down to talk to the acupuncturist and she asked me how I was doing, I said, “good” and then burst into tears. As I got into the gown and waited for her to come back into the room, I wanted to cry again and struggled to hold back tears. And then she came in and started putting her needles in…..one for increasing energy, one for lifting spirits, one for focus, one for holding energy….(I always ask what they are for because they always sound so nice). As always, I fell into a really restful deep 10-15 minutes sleep. After she took out the needles, I started bracing myself and looking for that heaviness again, the emotional fragility that was laying under the surface…..and I couldn’t feel it anymore. On the drive home, I was trying to access that sadness that I was carrying, that heaviness that makes everything in life suck, and it just wasn’t there. So I came home, made myself some tea, walked my puppy, made a business call, and even as I write this, I have not shed a tear. Haven’t really wanted or needed to. Part of me is bummed cuz I do like a nice cathartic cry but I actually feel okay. It’s so weird. It’s not that my emotions feel numb or dulled like I’m under the influence of drugs or alcohol…. I feel completely sober and clear and just have that sense of “everything is going to be okay” that I carry with me most of the time.

I have always partly attributed the emotional relief that I feel from acupuncture to something else (e.g., it was during holidays, it was during an easy time of the month, etc. etc.) so this is the only time I have no other excuse to attribute my relief to but my acupuncture appointment. Holy crap. This is better than a good therapy session. I may not have worked through my emotions or come upon any insights into my patterns or ways of thinking, coping, etc. but this is also exactly what I need. Relief, gained just from laying there. No need to talk, no need to process, no need to share. I feel like I’m betraying my profession for reveling in this so much but as someone who already uses verbal channels to process my feelings and experiences, this is pretty dang sweet.